Charlotte-based Belk will relocate one of its Mobile, Ala., department stores into a bigger space and reopen as a flagship store more than double its previous size.
A store expansion announcement comes at a time when the future of Belk’s ownership is unclear. A source told the Observer this month that New York private equity firm Sycamore Partners was preparing to make an offer to buy the department store for up to $3.5 billion, and that the Belk family is expected to decide this month whether to sell.
The new Mobile store will take the place of Sears in a two-story building at The Shoppes at Bel Air as part of a major transformation of the shopping center spearheaded by real estate group Rouse Properties.
The new flagship store will be 237,000 square feet; its previous space nearby is about 100,000 square feet. It was not immediately clear when the relocation will take place.
A store is considered a flagship location if it is about 160,000 square feet or larger, has a product assortment that reflects “the best of Belk,” conveys the company’s “Modern. Southern. Style” slogan and meets minimum volume requirements, according to Belk’s spokeswoman Jessica Graham.
The idea of a flagship, Graham told the Observer earlier this month, is to drive business of the whole region, including the smaller surrounding stores.
Belk has 22 flagship stores, including one in Cool Springs Galleria in Franklin, Tenn., which is just outside Nashville and will be completed this fall. Another local flagship store is the one in SouthPark mall, which is more than 260,000 square feet.
“The interest level from retailers has been even greater than anticipated, as evidenced by Belk’s confidence to open a flagship store and nearly double its footprint,” Andrew Silberfein, president and chief executive officer of Rouse Properties, said in a statement, referring to the revamped Mobile shopping center.
Belk is the largest family-owned department store chain in the U.S. and operates almost 300 stores, mainly in the Southeast. The company employs about 1,300 people at its corporate offices on Tyvola Road.